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Mersey Bank Park and the River Mersey

This site is a small formal park by the River Mersey that is dotted with weeping willows. The river, one of the largest in the area, has acted as a barrier and boundary for hundreds of years. The name 'Mersey' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for 'boundary'.

The River Mersey is formed by the confluence of the rivers Etherow, Goyt and Tame at Stockport.  The river flows through Didsbury, Stretford, Urmston and Flixton, where most of the Mersey Valley Warden Services sites can be found. It is joined by the River Irwell in the form of the Manchester ship Canal to the west of the city. Near Warrington, the river starts to become affected by tides making it an estuary. It weaves its way through Cheshire and Merseyside, reaching the Irish Sea at Liverpool and Birkenhead.

 The tributaries that form the Mersey flow through the Peak District collecting vast quantities of water, which drain, from the hills, making the river prone to flooding. In the 1970s, the environment agency re-routed the river through Manchester- straightening out the meanders and smoothing the banks to speed the passage of the floodwater through the city. This process is known as canalisation and can be seen on the vast majority of the river through Manchester. The river to the west of the millennium bridge in Trafford shows how the river would have looked in its natural state. It would have snaked its way through woodland known as willow carr, a remnant of which can be seen at Stenner Woods at Didsbury. This type of woodland, which is often slightly flooded, is a habitat that is now quite scarce in Britain.

The Environment Agency continue to maintain the river banks, ensuring that the water can flow unhindered by removing vegetation and preventing trees from growing by the edge of the water. When floodwater threatens to breach the banks, sluice gates can be opened that allow the water to escape along overflow channels at Millgate into Stenner woods; and at Sale Water Park into the lake and Broad Ees Dole. When this situation arises, the Wardens work with the Environment Agency to clear the sites of the public before the gates are opened. It can take 6 hours after a spell of heavy rain for the water to drain off the land and reach Manchester, so sometimes the storm may have passed and the skies cleared before the flood arrives.

During the 18th Century, the River Mersey was an important Salmon fishery, but by the early 20th century the water was too polluted to sustain fish populations. Industrial development along its length poured untreated effluents into the water. Since the 1980s, measures have been taken to clean up the water and recently there have been reports of salmon returning to the river.

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